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Candidates Meet with International Observers

A group of international observers from the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held separate meetings with all presidential candidates, except Badri Patarkatsishvili (who is not in Georgia), on January 4, the day before the election.

All the opposition presidential candidates reiterated their contention that the election campaign was held under “unfair and unequal conditions.” Incumbent presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili declined to comment after the meeting.

“The election legislation is not liberal [meaning, unfair]. The timeframe was too tight. We had no proper access to media outlets,” Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate backed by the nine-party opposition coalition, said. “A black PR campaign is being carried out against us in the media, by you in particular [referring to Rustavi 2 TV and Mze]. Unlike Saakashvili, we were not able to use administrative resources. Everyday there have been cases of attacks on our activists, who have been beaten or arrested just because they are our activists. We already know the results of the planned exit polls and we know in advance that they [the authorities] are already preparing to celebrate their victory on January 5 [based on the results of the exit polls].  Does this mean free and fair elections? We will not give Georgia to Saakashvili. It is unacceptable.”

Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights Party and a presidential candidate, said that tomorrow’s election should be assessed in the context of recent developments in the country and in the context of numerous alleged human rights violations that took place not only in recent months but during Saakashvili’s entire term in office.
Giorgi Maisashvili, a presidential candidate and leader of Party of Future, said: “The former president has carried out a shameful election campaign… No debates were held either. We [referring to his Party of Future] do not have a representative in the Central Election Commission, while the planned exit polls are a form of ballot rigging.”    

“I informed them [the international observers] about possible violations,” Irina Sarishvili, a presidential candidate and leader of Party of Hope, said. “I told them what I expected from the elections. These elections will be unfair. Since Saakashvili wants to win in the first round, he will do his best to rig the elections.”

Speaking at a news conference, Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Labor Party and a presidential candidate, said the people were ready to change the government “peacefully, through elections.”

“The authorities should understand this,” he said “So, they should lay the foundation for the peaceful change of government without any rallies, coups or unrest; without those harmful processes through which governments have been changing in Georgia for the past 15 years.”


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